Turn Your Dead Christmas Tree Into Beer

Rather than tossing your tree, turn it into spruce beer

It’s that time of year when sad, discarded Christmas trees start to pile up in the streets. In 2011, the United States spent $1.07 billion on more than 30 million Christmas trees, and at the end of the holidays, these poor uprooted plants get the boot. But NPR says that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can turn that tree into beer! Here’s how, according to the cookbook American Cookery:

For brewing Spruce Beer. Take four ounces of hops, let them boil half an hour, in one gallon of water, strain the hop water, then add 16 gallons of warm water, two gallons of molasses, eight ounces of essence of spruce, dissolved in one quart of water, put it in a clean cask, then shake it well together, add half a pint of emptins , then let it stand and work one week, if very warm weather less time will do, when it is drawn off to bottle, add one spoonful of molasses to every bottle.

NPR says that this spruce beer was a staple for mariners and vikings alike:

 ”Ancient Scandinavians and their Viking descendants brewed beer from young shoots of Norway spruce, drinking the beer for strength in battle, for fertility and to prevent scurvy on long sea voyages,” according to the second edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.

Indeed, the British Navy practically required spruce beer as a scurvy treatment, particularly after 18th century experimental nutritionist James Lind published his observations of sailors’ recoveries.

The beer is making a retro comeback now, and you can have needles delivered to your door from Colorado if you already chucked that tree. Here’s a more detailed recipe from Splendid Table:


  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups molasses
  • 2 ounces sassafras root, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh gingerroot
  • 3/4 teaspoon oil of spruce
  • 3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maltodextrin (optional)


  1. Combine the water, molasses, sassafras, ginger, and spruce oil in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally; let simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  2. Blend the brown sugar and maltodextrin (if using), and gradually add the mixture to the simmering root infusion, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then remove from the heat, let cool to room temperature, and strain.
  3. This syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Beer for Dessert
Beer Behemoths, Part One
History According to Beer

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.